Do we need landlords?

It is no wonder that so many young people today have a burning hatred for landlords. Thousands of people are forced to seek emergency homeless accommodation, and yet private landlords are raking in huge profits. Chris Stewart analyses the question, “Do we need landlords?”

By Chris Stewart

It is no wonder that so many young people today have a burning hatred for landlords. Thousands of people are forced to seek emergency homeless accommodation, and yet private landlords are raking in huge profits.

“Won’t somebody think of the poor landlords?!”

And yet, the media is full of nauseating pro-landlord propaganda. As interest rates have increased they have focused on the “crisis” facing landlords. Conveniently they tend to forget that most landlords won’t hesitate to pass these increases on to their tenants in the form of rent hikes. Instead, they want us to shed a tear for the poor landlord who will have the tough task of throwing people out on the street when they don’t pay up!

Landlords are desperate to paint themselves as the good guys. The Residents Landlords Association, for example, argue that they provide an essential service for their renters. Without their generosity, they argue, there would be mass homelessness!

This is delusional. In reality, landlords create homelessness by hoarding housing stock which creates scarcity in access to housing. This drives up prices and allows landlords to dictate terms to renters who have no other choice. In fact, one of the leading causes of homelessness is eviction due to rent increases.

This crisis has been fuelled by decades of housing policies that aimed to limit the amount of social housing and turn housing itself into an investment. Thatcher’s “Right to Buy” scheme, continued by successive governments, sold off social housing and facilitated huge rises in the price of housing. This has left entire generations totally reliant on rack-renting private landlords.

It seems like everybody who rents has a story of a nightmare landlord and the alienating conditions they have been forced to live in. Some will be all too familiar to workers and young people: unsafe levels of damp, a lack of basic amenities, fear of inevitable rent hikes, stolen deposits, a slew of dodgy fees, living rooms carved up to make spare bedrooms, etc.

What do landlords even do?

Landlords provide nothing productive or valuable to society. While most of us have to work to survive, landlords do nothing but extract wealth from the hard earned wages of their tenants. 

Under this system, the wealthiest in society can use their property to increase their wealth. Many young people today will never be able to afford to buy a house themselves, but in their lifetimes they will pay huge amounts towards the third, tenth or even one hundredth house owned by their private landlord.

The profits of landlords are fundamentally at odds with the interests of the majority in society. And yet the Stormont parties have consistently shown themselves to be incapable of doing anything for renters. The Housing Executive, a public body, gives millions in handouts to private landlords while refusing to address a complete lack of social housing. This is because the main parties are attached by a thousand strings to the landlords and big property developers. In fact, 1 in 5 MLAs are landlords themselves.

We do not have to accept this as a fact of life. We can build a movement of renters, workers and young people to fight against the landlords, big business and their allies in Stormont, to demand housing for need not profit!

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